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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 15, 2007

Senator Debbe Leftwich
Senator Debbe Leftwich

Senate Committee Approves Colorectal Cancer Bill

It is estimated that 1,880 Oklahomans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year. Of those, 720 will die. That’s according to the American Cancer Society, which also reports that regular colorectal cancer screening could reduce deaths from that disease by as much as 80 percent. That’s why Sen. Debbe Leftwich has authored SB 14, which would require insurance companies to cover colorectal cancer screening. The bill was approved by the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee on Thursday.

“Most people probably are not aware that colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “Unfortunately, less than half of all Americans 50 or older have been screened recently. Many times it is simply because they cannot afford it.”

Leftwich, who serves as Co-Chair of the Legislative Cancer Caucus, said that when colorectal cancer is diagnosed early, the five year survival rate is 90 percent. When it has spread to other organs, the five year
survival rate plummets to just 10 percent.

“Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are diagnosed while in the early stages,” Leftwich said. “Twenty years ago we started working to increase access to breast cancer screening and we’ve seen better outcomes for women as a result. Now we need to do the same thing with colorectal cancer screening.”

Leftwich said some insurance companies do offer the screening, but others do not. She said it is actually more cost effective in the long run, for both the patient and the insurance companies, to cover screening that enables the disease to be detected in its early stages.

“The cost of adding coverage for screening would be about 55 cents per customer per month. If you compare that to the cost of treating colorectal cancer in later stages because of a lack of screening, the cost is about $8,000 per customer per month,” Leftwich said.

The measure now must be voted on by the full Senate.

For more information contact:
Senator Leftwich's Office - (405) 521-5557

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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